An elite Spanish Air Force pilot has died after crashing his plane into the sea during a training session.
The accident took place on Thursday evening off the coast of the town of La Manga, in the southeastern Spanish region of Murcia, when Spanish Air Force commander Eduardo Fermin Garvalena, 39, nicknamed Solo, was piloting Aguila 5 (Eagle 5), a C-101 Aviojet plane, used for air stunts.
The pilot, who had more than 2,000 hours of flight experience, crashed into the sea for reasons which are unknown and are being investigated.
A video recorded by an onlooker shows a plume of smoke coming from the sea not far off the coast after the crash.
The Air Force said a search mission to find the remains of the plane had been launched and “there is no evidence the pilot could have ejected”.
A witness commented to local media that “he seemed to be ready to do the loop and it crashed and burned immediately”.
Garvalena, who was married and had three children and was from the nearby city of Granada, was responsible for doing the most dangerous acrobatics with the elite Patrulla Aguila (Eagle Patrol) unit at air shows and exhibitions similar to the Red Arrows.
He was the replacement for Francisco Marin, another pilot who died in similar circumstances on 26th August 2019 also in the same area, in La Manga del Mar Menor.
The Spanish Air Force has therefore lost two of its leading pilots in six months, with reports saying both men took the C-101 to its limits.
Garvalena also worked abroad in missions such as in Lithuania in 2016, and Djibouti in 2018.
Local media report the C-101 plane, used to train pilots in the Spanish Air Force, will be retired within two years as the maintenance is expensive.
The planes will be replaced by 24 PC-21 planes made by Swiss company Pilatus Aircraft Ltd.